Performing as an Extrovert

I’m actually pretty shy. People don’t know this because I’m good at faking not being shy. Really, really good.

I chose print journalism over TV broadcast journalism because bylines rule everything around me and being on camera means, well, being on camera. Bylines offer a bit of anonymity while being on the boob tube squashes any hopes of going unnoticed in public.

Years ago, I took the much-lauded Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to fulfill an employment obligation. Isabel Briggs Myers and Katherine Cook developed the MBTI assessment in the 1940s based on Carl Jung’s early 20th Century work on the theory of psychological type. Jung, a renowned psychiatrist, was a prolific writer and his impressive body of work has influenced the study of philosophy, psychiatry, anthropology and so much more.

The popular personality test seemed like a handful of questions asked a million different ways, nuanced like a mug. You are required to answer yes, uncertain or no to statements that include:

· You willingly involve yourself in matters which engage your sympathies;

· You are strongly touched by the stories about people’s troubles;

· After prolonged socializing, you feel you need to get away and be alone;

· You often contemplate the complexity of life.

The test analyzes the differences in people based on how they focus their attention or receive their energy (extraversion or introversion), how they process information (sensing or intuition), how they make decisions (thinking or feeling) and how they position themselves to the external world (judgement or perception).

Millions of people around the globe have taken this test each year since it was first published in 1962. Sixteen personality types have been derived from the MBTI instrument. There is no right or wrong personality type. Preference reigns supreme with each type having its own set of potential strengths in addition to areas for growth.

Et tu, jewel?

According to my answers, Myers-Briggs labels me an ENTJ, which means I am extroverted, intuitive, thinking and judging.

What do me, Napoleon Bonaparte and Margaret Thatcher have in common? Apparently, we are all ENTJs. Julius Caesar too.

Birds of the feather flock together is what they say. Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Margaret Thatcher and jewel bush?

Of course, Bonaparte and Caesar didn’t take the MBTI but based on exhaustive research on these political figures their personalities appear to fit the profile of an ENTJ.

“ENTJ types tend to be self-driven, motivating, energetic, assertive, confident, and competitive. They generally take a big-picture view and build a long-term strategy. They typically know what they want and may mobilize others to help them attain their goals. ENTJs are often sought out as leaders due to an innate ability to direct groups of people. Unusually influential and organized, they may sometimes judge others by their own tough standards, failing to take personal needs into account,” from the book, “Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type” by Isabel Briggs Myer with Peter Myer.

The most common personality type is ISTJ — introverted, sensing, thinking, judging. ENTJ is the second rarest personality type, according to MBTI. ENTJs account for 1–3% of males formally tested and 1–2% of females.

I see myself in this analysis, regardless of being in league with the likes of historical tyrants such as Napoleon and Caesar. But here lies the conundrum: I’m technically not an extrovert, though not fully an introvert. I’m personality type fluid in this regard. I’m an introvert who performs as an extrovert due to profession.

As a communications professional, I am comfortably situated behind the scenes; and as a writer, observing the action. I like to be adjacent to the action just not in it.

I am commonly confused as an extrovert and the problem with being perceived as an extrovert is that folks expect certain things from you at times when you simply cannot or are unable to deliver.

“My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me.”
~Protocols for “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” Carl Jung, 1958

I’m not a wall flower by no means but you’ll never find me as the center of attention on the dance floor. I can dominate the hell out of a conversation at a group dinner or porch gathering, though. I like being around people, but then it gets too people-ly for me and I crave quiet time alone. This is usually the case after periods of sustained interaction and contact with the outside world.

Sometimes I get bored during activities that are thrilling to others. Ask my sister about me yawning at clubs, concerts and at countless other strange times.

I’m assertive not timid even though I am shy. I don’t mind speaking my mind and speaking up publically oftentimes saying the tough things. I don’t mind saying, “no” either; an attribute my colleagues appreciate. But sometimes I don’t want to be the one doing the talking and am ok with just having the thing I want said.

I require lots of time to process and decompress shit in the news, politics and shit. Real life shit.

I need time to be able to read, write and watch TV. I need together time and alone time. I turn down invites all the time, but it’s no slight. Keep inviting me, just know I may not always be in a space to attend; and it’s not you, it’s me. No shitting.

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” — Carl Jung.

Tips for dealing with introverts who perform as extroverts: Give them space and then give them together time.